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American Geographical Society

The Ethnography of the Yugo-Slavs

Author(s): Milivoy S. Stanoyevich
Source: Geographical Review, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Feb., 1919), pp. 91-97
Published by: American Geographical Society
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Geographical Review.

The homeland occupied by the Slav race before the great migration of
nations appears to have been the basins of the Vistula, Pripet, and Dniester,
From this seat, in the period of the third to the seventh centuries, the
Slavs began to migrate and spread in all directions, towards the Baltic,
towards the lower Dnieper, and towards the Danube, i. e. into the Balkan
Peninsula. From the tribes moving towards the lower Danube originated
the Serbians, Croats, and Slovenes, known today under one name, the Yugo-
Slavs, or Southern Slavs.

The exact time when the Southern Slavs began to penetrate into the
Balkans is not known to a certainty. According to the Russian chronicle
of Pseudo-Nestor, there were, at the time of the Trajan conquests, Slavs in
Dacia; but the Volkhi or Vlakhi (i. e. Romance speakers) had conquered
and driven some of them to the Danube and some to the Vistula. The truth
of this may be inferred from the vestiges of bad repute which the name
of Trajan has left in Slavonic tradition. In any case we cannot say that
the Slavs occupied a large part of the Balkan Peninsula before the
beginning of the sixth century, when they appear in Byzantine history
as a new terror. By 584 they had overrun almost all of Greece and were
the most western neighbors of the Eastern Empire. In a book on military
art, "Strategica," ascribed to Emperor Maurice, directions were given for
dealing with the Slavs,1 and Emperor Leo set forth his theory of the
military principles to be used against them in his "Tactics."
By the end of the seventh century the Southern Slavs were permanently
settled throughout the whole of the Balkan Peninsula. On the extreme
west lived the Slovenes (Sloventsi), who occupied the regions now known
as Carniola (Krayina, Krain), Carinthia (Khorutania, Korushko), and
Styria (Stayersko, Steiermark). On the east of the Slovenes lived the
Croats, who came from the northern slopes of the Carpathians (hence the
names Carpati, Horvati, Hrvati). They extended their territory far be-
yond the limits of modern Croatia and included parts of Bosnia and the
Adriatic coast, where was nurtured a hardy race of sailors, equally fitted
* The author in this paper does not include the Bulgarians among the Yugo-Slavs. While they are
generally considered as belonging ethnically to the group (see e. g. Jovan Cvijic [Yovan Tsviyity]: The
Geographical Distribution of the Balkan Peoples. Geogr. Rev., Vol. 5, 1918. pp. 345-361; reference on p. 355),
the present political antagonism between the Serbs and the Bulgarians and the limitation of the proposed
Yugo-Slav state to the Serbo-Croats and Slovenes may foreshadow a gradual restriction in the future of
the term " Yugo-Slav " to the western branch of the Southern Slavs.-For names of geographical features
consult the ethnographic map of the Balkan Peninsula accompanying the paper by Cvijic cited above.-
l See C. Yirechek: Istoriya Srba (History of the Serbians), Bk. 2, Ch. 1, Belgrade, 1911.

for fishing, commerce, or warfare. The eastern division of the great Slavic
migratory horde was formed by the Serbs (Serboi or Sirbi, as the Byzantine
historians called them). They colonized the land between the Isker River
and the Adriatic coast, including Serbia, Bosnia, Hertsegovina, Montenegro,
northern Macedonia, Slavonia, the Bachka, and the Banat.


Writers who describe the SOuthern Slavs recognize that, although they
are divided into three nationalities, they are closely akin and form one
compact race. Their dialects shade into one another, and there is no trace
of great influence by other Slavonic groups. The Southern Slavs were cut
off from the Western and Eastern Slavs by the foundation in the sixth
century of the Avar kingdom in Pannonia (now Slavonia) and, after its
destruction in the seventh century, by the spread of the Germans south-
eastwards and finally by the incursion of another Asiatic horde, that of
the Magyars, who have maintained themselves in the midst of the Slavs
for a thousand years. Their conquests were made chiefly at the expense
of the Slovenes and the Slovaks, from whom they borrowed many words in
forms which have now disappeared. On the border of the large area be-
tween the Tyrolese Alps on the west and the Balkans on the east the Yugo-
Slavs came into contact with the old Illyrians, Romans, Greeks, and Vlakhs.3
The mixture with these nations in the course of centuries has somewhat
modified the real Slavonic type. There are now to be found among the
Southern Slavs more of the Roman and Greek dark eyes than of the gray
eyes characteristic of the pure Slavs. The handsomest types of all the
Southern Slavs are to be found in the region between the Neretva and
Timok Rivers.
The latest researches have divided the Southern Slavs into three differ-
ent groups or characteristic types. These are: the Dinaric, the Macedonian,
and the Pannonic types. The Dinaric type is found generally in the
region of Istria, Croatia, Dalmatia, Bosnia-Hertsegovina, Montenegro, and
northern Serbia. The Macedonian type occupies southern Serbia and
northern Macedonia. In the Pannonic type one may count the people of
Carniola, Slavonia, the Bachka, and the Banat. Within these three main
types should be also included some subvarieties, of which we shall speak
The Dinaric Type
The Dinarics are easily marked out from the other types. They are the
typical western Yugo-Slavs, who have kept their national feelings quite
2 See also Jovan Cvijid: Unitd ethnique et nationale des Yougoslaves, Scientia, Vol. 23, 1918, pp. 455-463.
3 See: Jugoslavia, A New European State, The CenturyMagazine,March, 1918, pp. 687-692,New York.

untouched by foreign influences. Although the people of this type have

been partitioned by neighboring powers, they have maintained their in-
dividuality in spite of all outside interference. The most prominent marks
of the mental life of this type are versatile wit, keen intelligence, extreme
sensibility, and abundance of intellectual power. These people usually
follow their inspirations, caring little for material considerations. An
appeal made to their sense of honor or their ideal of liberty and justice
brings a quick response. They manifest a vivid desire to live, to develop,
to make a success of their careers, and to be worthy representatives of their


A most typical sign of Southern Slav social life is the custom known as
the zadruga. This is a community of 20 to 80 members knit together by ties
of blood and living adjacent to each other. The zadruga dates from a very
early period, perhaps from the time the Yugo-Slavs came to the Balkans.
As the primitive Dinaric population settled in an isolated and mountainous
region, this method of life probably owed its origin and maintenance to
the simple human necessity for companionship. Under Turkish dominion
it grew and expanded because the Turks demanded toll from every house,
and the peasants by living in zadruga style could include many homes
under a single roof, and thus pay but one tax for all. Being composed of
a greater number of members, the zadruga also received more respect from
national enemies.4 Although the zadruga is gradually dying out, it is never-
theless to be found more often in the Dinaric regions than in any of the
other parts of Yugo-Slavia.


Attached as are the Yugo-Slavs to their zadruga, they are no less rev-
erential of their ancestors, especially in Montenegro and Serbia. Here
more than anywhere else in Yugo-Slavia ancient family names are passed
on from generation to generation. Family genealogies are considered very
precious. Also the feast of the patron saint, the slava, receives much atten-
tion, ranking after Christmas and Easter as the most important day of
the year. A family not blessed with a male heir is considered quite humili-
ated, and when one says: "Nyegova se kutya ugasila" (his house is extin-
guished), it means that the last male has died and the ancestral line is
ended. A strong feeling for tradition is also to be noted. From Rieka
in Croatia to Kotor in Dalmatia the most important facts of local history
are handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.5
4 See: Obichayi Naroda Srpskoga (The Customs of the Serbian People), edited by the Serbian
of Science, Vols. 1 and 2, Belgrade, 1907-08.
5 See: Zbornik za Narodni Zhivot i Obichaye Yuzhnikh Slavena (A Collection of the National
and Customs of the Southern Slavs), edit. by the Yugo-Slav Academy of Science, Vol. 8, Zagreb, 1903.


The subvarieties of the Dinaric type are those of the Shumadia, Bosnia,
and Hertsegovina. The Shumadia variety occupies almost all of Serbia
tributary to the Morava River and is composed of old ethnic groups made
up of immigrants from the west and south. These strong and virile Shu-
madian (forest) peasants adapted their mental characteristics to the new
geographical and social environment and, when the Turkish Empire in
the beginning of the nineteenth century began to decay, were among the
first insurgents to throw off its yoke and proclaim an independent state.
Democratic sentiment is more developed among the people of this subvariety
than among any other Yugo-Slav type. Like the whole type, however, the
Shumadians show a remarkable inclination toward science, literature, and
art. From this region came the grand figure of Vuk Karadzhity, the
founder of modern Serbian literature.
The Bosnian is distinguished by a certain languor of speech and action,
and the Hertsegovinian (Era) by his trickery. Their physical constitution
is massive and their stature tall. With these physical traits there goes the
mental accompaniment of tranquility and taciturnity. They are overpro-
lific, and, because of the working out of the Malthusian law, many of them
are forced, like their neighbors the Dalmatians, to emigrate to foreign
parts, especially the United States.6

The Macedonian Type

The Macedonian type has had less of an evolution than the Dinaric, and
it lacks individuality. There are archaic customs to be found in the region
of the Macedonian type, something of Old Slavic, ancient Balkan, and
Turco-Byzantine. The tendency towards realism is the dominant trait of
this type.
The original tribes of this region were at the beginning of the Middle
Ages subjected to a Byzantine influence which considerably modified them.
After the dissolution of the Byzantine Empire the zadruga persisted among
the Macedonians, and today one sees these family groupings in the region
of Kossovo and the Metohiya, as well as in the belt of land occupied by the
Shops on the border of Bulgaria. Though both the zadruga and the slava
are to be found among the Shops, these institutions soon disappear as one
approaches the Isker River. The zadruga in all these regions is not so
marked in type as it is in the Dinaric confines; less warmth and intimacy
are felt among its members.
The Macedonian type has not mixed with the Pannonic or Dinaric, and
it lacks the deep national consciousness of the latter. History is crystallized
6 See: Naselya Srpskikh Zemalya (Population of Serbian Lands), edit. by Serbian Academy of Science.
Bk. 6, Belgrade, 1909.

in traditions, sentiments, and national tendencies. It is as if the genera-

tions had only transmitted a physical inheritance. The soul has ever
remained the soul of the ancient Slav. Even the language has been prac-
tically stationary. While the Dinaric type has abandoned many old forms
for new ones, the Macedonian has kept its archaic mold. Yet, although it
has retained most of its old words and linguistic forms, it has not become
entirely petrified, for some foreign elements have crept in. The people
preserve their old ways. Women are extremely backward, keeping to their
old-fashioned costumes, remarkable for rich ornamentation. If one were
to stand in the midst of a crowd of Yugo-Slavs, he would have no difficulty
in detecting the man of Macedonian type by his exterior as well as by the
archaic traits of his language and mentality. He is a vigorous example
of basic Slavic character, less contaminated by recent foreign influences
and ethnic assimilation than the Dinaric or Pannonic types. Remnants of
ancient Byzantine civilization emerge now and then, sometimes mixed with
Turco-Oriental peculiarities.
The region occupied by the Macedonian type is the basin of the Southern
Morava and the Vardar Rivers, which was the portion of the peninsula
most completely submerged by Byzantine domination. Longer than any
other section this region remained during the Middle Ages under the direct
sway of Constantinople. The principal longitudinal routes traversed this
province, and contiguity to Saloniki and Constantinople made itself felt.
Many cities of Macedonia, for instance Seres, Voden, Bitolia, and Okhrida,
were strongly Islamized. Finally, these regions were longest cut off from
contact with Western civilization and culture, owing to the strictness of
Turkish surveillance.7
The subvarieties of the Macedonian type are the Shops and Torlaks. The
domicile of these varieties is found in the basins of the Timok, Nishava, and
Isker Rivers. "Torlak" means a man who speaks neither good Bulgarian
nor good Serbian, and the name "Shop" signifies a rustic. Both these
ethnic groups were influenced to a lesser degree by Byzantine civilization
than were the southern Macedonians. They preserved their patriarchal
institutions longer than did the Dinarics and still celebrate the slava like
the rest of the Serbians. Being very industrious, they know how to utilize
their savings. When they can find no employment in their sterile and
mountainous country they emigrate to Rumania or to North or South
America. Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, happens to be situated in the heart
of the region occupied by these subvarieties. Consequently many Shops
and Torlaks were Bulgarized, especially those who did not move over to
Serbian lands. Those who emigrated to Serbia lost their Bulgarian char-
acter and are regarded as pure Serbians.8
7 See: Etnoloshka Gradya i Rasprave (Ethnological Materials and Researches), edit. by Serbian
Academy of Science, Belgrade, 1910.
8 Same work as cited in footnote 6, Bk. 11, Belgrade, 1912.

The Pannonic Type

According to the researches of the Serbian geographer, Jovan Cvijie,9
the area inhabited by the Pannonic type is situated north of the Save and
Danube Rivers, in the old province of Pannonia. Roughly speaking it
includes the Pannonic plain to the east and a part of the Dinaric Alps to
the west. From an economic standpoint there are three different regions
occupied by the Pannonic Slavs. On the east are Syrmia, the Bachka, and
the Banat, territory completely agricultural. Slavonia and a part of
Croatia are given over to agriculture and forestry, especially the district
of Croatian Zagorye.10 The lands of the Slovenes belong to the third
economic division, where industry, particularly the mining of coal and
mercury, is more developed than in either of the former regions.


The story of how the Slavs came to the Pannonic regions is told in the
pilgrimage of the Serbian patriarch Arsen III, who, escaping before the
on-coming Turks, left southern Serbia accompanied by 30,000 retreating
Serb families and fled along the valley of the Morava, over the Save and
Danube, to the fertile plains of southern Hungary. There they settled,
having been promised land and other privileges in return for their pledge
of protection to the Austrian Empire in case of further attacks by the
The population of the Pannonic region as a whole has been influenced
by various tides of immigration. Syrmia, the Bachka, and the Banat in
their patriarchal life resemble the Macedonian type. Traces of ancient
Balkan civilization may be found there; while the people of Slavonia,
Syrmia, and Carniola, in their mentality reflect their contact with the
Dinaric type. It has been proved that people living on plains have a
spirit less alert than mountaineers. Such is the case with the Pannonics,
who as a rule are a farming class and in disposition are even-tempered
and emotionally static.
The Croats and Slovenes are the representatives of Central European
civilization among the Yugo-Slavs. The Slovenes are known as great
organizers of industry and business enterprises in general. This quality
was strengthened in the economic struggle against their northern and
western neighbors.l2 The Croats are enthusiasts, poets, and idealists. The
founders of Yugo-Slavism were the Croatian patriots, Lyudevit Gay and
9 Jovan Cviji6: La P6ninsule Balkanique: G6ographie Humaine, Part V, Chs. 16-18,Paris, 1918.
10Transmontana, " beyond the woods," i. e. from Slavonia.
1 See H. W. V. Temperley: History of Serbia, London, 1917.
12See Bogumil Voshnyak: A Bulwark Against Germany, New York, 1919.

Bishop Strosmayer. Their educational institutions in Zagreb attract the

youth from all Yugo-Slav lands, as does the Paris Sorbonne the youth of
the world.
Among the three Yugo-Slav types, Dinaric, Macedonian, and Pannonic,
there are some linguistic and ethnographic differences. But aside from
these insignificant variations in speech and manners, their mental qualities
are practically the same, whether found in Macedonia, Istria, or Slavonia.
In all these three Yugo-Slav groups there prevails a common character of
subtleness of thought which causes them to perceive the most delicate
nuances of feeling and to express them in an artistic manner. Further-
more there is a deep tenderness lying at the bottom of the composite Yugo-
Slav soul. These sentiments are so vivid that very often in moments of
passion they break out into intolerance and result in political or partisan
combats. The Yugo-Slavs are characterized in general by their rich im-
agination, their capacity for enthusiasm, and their national idealism. In
spite of innumerable battles with the Turks in former times, and with
Germans and Hungarians more recently, they have been neither destroyed
nor denationalized. On the contrary, their common sufferings and their
lofty idealism have brought them together and made of them not only one
race, but one state and one nation.

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